Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban (InfoSoup) This clever update to the beloved folk song has a focus on large machinery. The book follows the structure of the original song, filled with E-I-E-I-O’s and then inserts a different type … Continue reading Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz
This picture book puts an Eastern Indian twist on The Wheels on the Bus rhyme. Here it’s the tuk tuk taxi’s wheels that go round and round instead. The picture book captures the hustle and bustle of a city in India with people getting on and off the tuk tuk, rupees going ching ching as payments are made, and people having to squish in together.The tuk tuk stops for cows in the road and also for a drink of chai for the driver. There are spraying elephants and then the trip ends with Diwali fireworks in the sky. It’s a merry and dynamic ride that pays homage to the original while being uniquely its own story.
It is the energy of this book that makes it so much fun. The setting is captured in small moments that make sure that readers know that they are somewhere specific and exceptional. The rhyme retains its dynamic pace with the tuk tuk filling with passengers of all ages as the book moves along the streets of India.
The illustrations in the book are bright and cheery. They show busy streets with monkeys, cows, goats and more. Good food appears like steaming chai and poppadoms and then is happily shared with one another.
A superb look at another culture through a familiar preschool rhyme, this picture book invites readers along for a ride of a different sort. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
It’s a great year for Christmas books, and I have four top choices for your holiday reading pleasure:
The First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski
With text from the King James version of the Bible, this picture book tells the nativity story with stateliness and words that will be familiar to many. The great joy of the book is the silhouette illustrations by Pienkowski who has created images that glow on the page. She combines her black silhouettes with colors that shift and seem to be lit from behind. Her detailed cut paper art is awe-inspiring and adds just the right touch of wonder to the story of the birth of Jesus. Recommended for all ages.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
Manger selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Helen Cann
On Christmas Eve at midnight the animals are given the gift of being able to speak. The poems in this book tell what each of the animals would say during the nativity about what they witnessed and how they contributed. Hopkins has compiled a collections of poems from a dozen poets. The collection ranges in styles and lengths but is also cohesive and the differences in the poems creates a variety that adds freshness.
Cann’s illustrations are lovely with rich colors and fine details. They show the animals clearly and also the wonder of the nativity on each page whether they are fish, fowl or mammal. The poems range from very serious approaches to ones that are gently humorous but they are all done with great respect and honor the reason Christmas exists. Appropriate for ages 5-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans.
Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chuck Groenink
Santa tells his own story of Christmas in these 25 short haiku poems that offer a glimpse into what goes into making Christmas happen. From the joy of snow to the seasonal chores like fixing Christmas lights, readers will see their own holiday preparations in Santa’s world too. But there are also things that are just in Santa’s world like the many letters from children, hard-working elves, reading stories to the reindeer and finally flying off to deliver presents.
These poems are cleverly done, often showing the beauty of the winter season just as much as they are celebrating the Christmas holiday. The mix of natural beauty with Christmas makes the book rich and a holiday treat to share. The illustrations too show the wonder of nature on the page alongside the bustle of the holiday season. It is the quiet snowy scenes and the small special moments that make the strongest impressions both in poem and art. Appropriate for ages 4-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
The Twelve Days of Christmas illustrated by LeUyen Pham
The traditional holiday carol is told in a warm new rendition with illustrations that are traditional but also very funny. The carol is unaltered in this picture book that shows what happens as the various gifts arrive. Though in the first pages it seems to be a book that will stack and pile the huge number of gifts on each page, this book is more subtle about things and therefore more successful. Instead it is a delightful mix of diversity, different cultures and the joy of the season. It turns out this is a modern and fresh take on the carol sure to spread joy. Appropriate for ages 4-9.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Doubleday Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.
Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown
A new collection of previously unpublished poems from the master Margaret Wise Brown are illustrated here by twelve different illustrators. According to the introduction by Amy Gary, the editor of the Margaret Wise Brown Estate, these poems were part of a trunk of unpublished manuscripts that Margaret’s sister had in her barn. They reflect the interest that Margaret developed towards the end of her life in creating music for children. The book is accompanied by a music CD that brings the poems into song. This book is just as enjoyable as a song book or a poetry book, make sure to try it out both ways!
Brown’s poems are simple and lovely. Some of them read like nursery rhymes with plenty of repetition of phrase and style. Others are a bit looser but still musical even as words. She created small worlds in each song, offering lovely gems of moments in each one. I have a handful of top favorites from the book: “The Mouse’s Prayer” which is a beautiful wintry poem, “Wooden Town” that evokes a childhood joy of creating a little world of blocks, and “The Secret Song” which is a question and answer poem that is quiet and lonely.
The twelve illustrators make up some of the top illustrators in today’s picture books. There is a great pleasure in turning the page and seeing an entirely different feel with the next poem. Some are bright and sunny, others deep colored like the night, and still others filled with snow. The styles reflect each of the illustrators and as a whole the book works extremely well, giving each poem a distinct note of its own on the page.
A top pick for children’s poetry, these songs are a dazzling collection from a very talented writer. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
May the Stars Drip Down by Jeremy Chatelain, illustrated by Nikki McClure
Quiet and lovely, this is a picture book version of the lullaby by indie rock band Cub Country. That song is haunting and beautiful with its slow pace. This book is much the same. The lyrics to the song read as a poem on the page, one that takes a child on a journey of dreams before returning back home again. It is a book designed for reading at bedtime in the same soothing pace as the song.
McClure’s cut paper art adds to the beauty of the book. Done entirely in blues and whites, the book invites children to twilight and darkness. Throughout the book the night is celebrated in its beauty, from the moon on the sea to the the owl winging past. There is a sense both in the poem and the art that you are seeing into the secrets of the evening.
A gorgeous new version of a song, this book is ideal for bedtime reading and dreaming. Appropriate for ages 2-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books.
Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger
Brace yourself for a picture book that is entire silliness and proud of it! In a riff on Yankee Doodle, this story tells readers that it was all the pony’s idea. Yankee Doodle is bored and goes off on rants about how he doesn’t want to go to town or go shopping. Then the pony suggests a feather for his cap, which starts another rant. The pony finishes with a suggestion to call it macaroni. After that rant, he explains that macaroni is another word for fancy, and that Yankee Doodle may want to call it lasagna instead. In the end, the two of them head off to town, just like the pony wanted all along.
Angleberger writes with such a wry sense of humor here. The rants by Yankee Doodle are a hoot to read aloud, the text heavy with indignation and exclamation points. The sly pony seems to know just what he is doing as he lets Yankee Doodle blow off steam but gets his own way in the end. The book ends with a historical note about the real history of the song.
The illustrations are done in gouache with a thick black line and bold colors. The entire book pops visually and will work with larger groups of children thanks to its clarity and strong shapes.
This one is a winner for story times. Expect guffaws from children who know the song! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Nightsong by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long
Chiro is a very young bat whose mother tells him that it is time for him to head out on a solo flight for the first time. Chiro is very worried about how he will see in the dark, but his mother encourages him to “Sing, and the world will answer.” So Chiro heads out on his own. At first, he tries to fly without singing, but it is too dark. Then when he sings, he suddenly sees in color. Chiro explores and sees all sorts of things through his song. When he gets to the pond and all of its insects, their songs sound like breakfast to him. His mother had warned him not to go too far unless his song was strong. But Chiro is confident and heads out across the pond to see even more of the world through his song.
Berk’s writing is lyrical and lovely. He captures subtleties and beauty in his words, offering insight about what Chiro is seeing through his echolocation. When Chiro uses his song for the first time, Berk writes about it like this: “Tall trees called out to him, chanted the length of their long branches and the girths of their rough trunks.” As you can see, he asks children to reach higher with their language, inviting them to explore like Chiro does.
Long’s illustrations are a study in dark patterns and then bursts of color. Chiro is an exceedingly cute little bat, flying against haunting branches of shadow. When he sings, children will see the world come to life too, strengthened even more by Berk’s language. This is a beautiful book, perfect for a summer pajama story time.
A dark delight of a bat’s life, this book is lush in both language and imagery. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.